There are a lot of different criteria for “best” coloring supplies for adults. For purposes of this article, we shall examine cost, pencil quality, paper quality and give the nod to coloring supplies other than colored pencils. There are even some peripheral esthetic considerations, such as storage containers for your art supplies and coloring books or papers. As for places to find them, resources vary by location, but several chains sell art supplies of all kinds, as well as mail-order supply facilities.
The best coloring supplies for adults are those that meet the individual’s preferences at a reasonable cost. There is a good chance that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for this consideration. Thanks to Internet ordering, locating a source for suitable materials is far easier than it once was.
Where to find the best coloring supplies for adults:
Most professional art supply houses have a mail-order service. In addition, Amazon.com, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and several other stores carry excellent art supplies, including colored pencils, blending pencils, and other blending mediums, as well as adult coloring books and added supplies.
Criteria for Colored Pencil Quality
A good set of colored pencils should cover the paper easily yet be able to hold a point sufficiently well to do defined hatching. The wooden barrel should hold together and be easy to sharpen with a hand sharpener or blade. The color should resist fading and should have the capability of blending with or without a blending medium. Here are several brands, ranked by the writer’s preference:
- Prismacolor – goes on smooth, easy to blend, remains bright for a long while. It costs around $1.00 per pencil. It can be purchased through most art supply houses, such as Blick art supplies or Dickies. It can also be purchased through Amazon from a variety of suppliers.
- Prang – Perhaps better known for its student watercolors, but also puts out a good pencil or crayon. Available from art supply houses, especially those that cater to schools. It can be purchased in bulk but can also be purchased as an individual order. Amazon carries this brand of art supply, also.
- Crayola – the dependable workhorse of student art. Almost always reasonably priced, goes on smooth, might not be as bright as Prismacolor or Prang, but it still does a good job. It costs around 25 to 30 cents per pencil. Crayola brand is available through art supply houses, Amazon, and most department stores that sell school art supplies.
- Crazy – a passable brand that tends to have slightly hard centers but can still be used, usually carried by department stores or bargain stores, such as Dollar General.
- Roseart – a useable brand that tends to be a little hard and to have slightly less brilliant colors. They are frequently carried by department stores and bargain stores that provide basic school art supplies.
Criteria for Coloring Book Quality
Although it is possible for adults to color in coloring books that are provided for children, most prefer coloring books that are a little more sophisticated. Dover Publishing puts out a good brand of coloring books that covers history, line drawings of classical art, women’s fashions, and more. They even have paper dolls, which is a nice transition from children’s coloring to adult coloring for preteens and young adults.
Dover Publications are a good example of coloring books that are pleasant for multiple ages, well-researched, and that have good binding.
Paper quality is important. Wood pulp paper, the type that was once used to make “Big Chief” tablets, is sometimes used to make children’s coloring books. If you are skilled at shading and adding small details, this is a completely acceptable type of paper for use with crayons, chalk, or oil pastels, especially if you are just coloring for fun. It does not do well with colored pencils because they tend to poke through them. Furthermore, wood pulp papers tend to be high in acid and will deteriorate over time. This is also true of books that are printed on newsprint (the grade of paper used for newspaper printing). In fact, the best use of newsprint weight paper is sketching with charcoal or soft drawing pencils.
According to DickBlick, a major art supply company, you should look for paper that is acid-free and has at least 25% rag content. A paper with good surface sizing will hold up to erasing better than an unfinished paper. Even so, erasing will often tear or roughen the paper surface. Coloring books are not often intended as lasting media. If you are simply having fun, then a book with moderate paper quality will be less important. But if you are planning to give your colored pages as gifts or frames and use them as decoration, then a better quality of paper might be preferred.
Selecting a Binding
Your preferred binding will depend on what you want to do with your completed coloring pages. Many coloring book artists like to remove the pages from their books so that they can be framed or otherwise displayed.
But if you wish to keep your pictures in their original book, a good paper with a flexible binding is important for being able to color down into the crevices between pages and for keeping the pages in good order so that you can enjoy them for a long time.
Types of Binding
Dover Coloring Books are nicely printed on white paper and usually feather a centerfold, staple binding, sometimes also known as a saddle stitch binding (possibly because these binding were once sewn rather than stapled.) This type of binding can be taken apart if you want to frame a picture or cut parts out of pages.
Case binding is the type of binding used for hardcover books. It usually is made up of several saddle-stitched (with actual stitching) sections that are then glued to a cloth, then further protected with a cloth or leather back over two durable “boards,” which are usually heavy cardboard.
Perfect binding is the type used for paperback books. The book pages are stacked, then stuck to a glue edge, and further protected with a stiff paper or cardboard back.
Spiral binding is similar to that used by a spiral notebook and has the advantage that the book can be laid flat. Comb bindings use a plastic “comb,” which is threaded through holes that are punched at the edge of the book. Thermal or gummed binding is created by placing the trimmed edges of a stack of pages to a heated, pre-gummed backing.
As you might guess, the hardcover bindings are the most expensive and the most durable. You will probably not want those unless you are binding something really special, like original artwork that has been created just for you. The heated, pregummed binding is probably the least expensive. It can be reasonably durable and also has the advantage that it is not too difficult to take a book apart and simply file the various pages.
Intricate Adult Coloring Books
Many adults find coloring mandalas and other non-representational intricate artworks to be soothing. With no representational design, the artist is free to apply colors to the pre-drawn designs while simply enjoying the designs. These beautiful books are available from nearly any department or book store. They are also frequently found through Amazon or from art supply stores.
Adult Themed Coloring Books
Adult-themed coloring books are definitely not for children. They might feature naughty words or even naughty pictures. These are frequently available from Amazon.com or from literary sources. Some of them are beautiful and intricate, while others might be broadly designed and printed on inexpensive paper.
Original Coloring Books
This is where you will certainly want a nice binding and some way to preserve the pages. You might even want to make a copy of a favorite page so that you can color it over and over in different colors and themes. Keep in mind, however, that copying your coloring book pages is only for you to preserve your book and should not be shared with others.
Ancillary Coloring Supplies
- Blending pencils – used to mix or blend colors on the page. Usually available from Amazon.com or from art supply companies in packs of two.
- Paper Stomps – a pencil-like paper roll used to rub over colors to blend them.
- Blending medium – a liquid or gel that can be applied using a paper stump, a cotton swab, or even the corner of a tissue.
- Specialized colored pencil or crayon sharpeners – specialized sharpeners help to prevent breaking tips off the colored pencil core. Crayon sharpeners help to restore a crayon to factory sharpness.
- Sanding pads – often a rectangular paddle with a pad of fine-grain sanding paper attached. These are used to sharpen stomps or smooth coloring leads.
- Kneaded erasers – kneaded erasers are stretchy erasers that can be pulled, shaped, and, well, kneaded. They are most frequently used for sketching, but they can be used to pick up excess pigment or assist with gradual shading.
Check out our coloring book recommendations HERE.
Your Coloring Book, Your Art Supplies, Your Taste
Selecting art supplies can be highly individualized. If you are not sure whether you will like a brand or style, purchase only a small amount of the supply to try it out. Your ideal pencil, crayon, marker, or paint might not be the same as another person’s preferred materials.
What is your favorite medium?
I prefer the creamy texture of soft Prismacolor pencils. But another family member is partial to hard center pencils because they do a better job with hatching and cross-hatching.
What is the best binding for a coloring book?
As is often the case, “best” depends on what you want to do. When selecting a book, keep in mind whether you will want to have it lie flat, kept together, taken apart, or preserved in its original state. A spiral binding will let the book lie flat; a comb binding is easy to take apart – and even put back together if you change your mind. A handsome hardcover binding might be preferred if you have commissioned or located a book of original art.
How should you use an adult coloring book?
There is a lovely coloring book that gives beautiful directions for using a coloring book. The book is Sweary Cats, and the directions include: Get out your coloring book and pencils. Turn off your digital media, select a page, and enjoy. Stop at any time, start at any time.
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